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Eating Disorders

Eating Disorders

In our western society, we have increasingly placed an emphasis on food and eating. We have magazines, ad campaigns and television programmes all devoted to it; in fact, the reality shows which are based on cooking competitions, are the most popular of all. Food is seen as a major social focus and source of pleasure, but for an increasing number of people, it is becoming an instrument of torture.

How Can I Recognise An Eating Disorder?

Firstly remember that these disorders can be at either end of the healthy eating spectrum. There are those who learn to fear and avoid food, resulting in life threatening weight loss (anorexic), as well as those who seriously binge on junk food and then purge themselves in an attempt to undo the effect (bulimic). Then there are those who overindulge regularly, but make no attempt to compensate and consequently end up either obese or morbidly obese. Interestingly, this final group is less likely to acknowledge that they have a problem. Their issue is easy to spot, since they constantly eat more than their body needs, tend to favour junk foods, avoid exercise or physical activity and appear to have lost their awareness of when their body has had enough food. It is important to recognise that for these groups of people, eating is not basically a physical activity, but an emotional one.

Anorexia nervosa and bulimia may be identified by:

  • A driving compulsion to control weight by unhealthy steps
  • The inability to see their bodies as others see them
  • An obsession with maintaining control and being perfect (in all areas of life)
  • Low self-esteem and self-hatred
  • Depression, mood swings, secretive behaviour
  • Rigid rituals focused on eating and exercise
  • An insatiable desire for acceptance and approval.
  • Specific practices (e.g. bingeing / purging, self-starving)

Who Is At Risk?

  • Most common in females, although the incidence in males is on the increase
  • Adolescents. Young children and adults may also be affected, but puberty and peer pressure seem to be major triggers.
  • Those with a strong need for control
  • Those with a family history of eating disorders, or addictions
  • Perfectionists
  • People who struggle with depression and self-esteem issues
  • Those who regularly feel emotionally isolated from other people.

How Can You Help?

If you are concerned that someone may be affected by an eating disorder then you can:

  • Clearly let them know in a gentle but firm way, the symptoms that you are recognising and what your specific concerns are. Expect resistance and denial.
  • Encourage them to seek appropriate professional support and do this for yourself too. Counselling can help you to understand what is going on for them, as well as giving you a place to address your own fears.
  • Don't support their lies and self-deception. Always be honest with them.
  • Be willing to listen.
  • Let them know that you care about and accept them even though their choices about eating upset you. Separate the issue from the person.
  • Accept that they are on an emotional roller coaster, and do your best not to join them.

If you need support with an eating disorder, contact Alli at Point Of Change Counselling to make an appointment.

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The information on this website is intended for general information only. For help, diagnosis, or treatment of specific issues, please see a mental health professional.